Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Blossoming Hope

The past few years have been really difficult ones for me.  2008 had some ups, but there were so many challenges that they seemed to destroy all the good that occurred.  2009 was one of the most amazing and difficult years of my life; for instance I directed my first theatrical production that year and starred in a production of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, but my Dad died and that's something that will affect me for the rest of my life. 2010 started out more promising, but then I got the hours of the job I was working reduced and eventually my entire job was eliminated. The first part of 2011 was really difficult, but the last part of the year hope has been blossoming.

I try to remain hopeful about things, but there is a dark vein in me: for instance I'm drawn to sad stories. I've always begun a new year in a spirit of joy and optimism, yet it seems all of that is quickly zapped away. 2011 is ending on a positive note and it is my hope 2012 will continue in that vein. Perhaps this year will be the turning point that like the Dark Tower and Roland Deschain has evaded me for so long.

Here's to 2012!

Teaching and Game Shows

-Jonny Hawkins, 2011 Teacher Cartoon-a-Day Calendar

Graphic Novel Challenge 2011

I'm not in to very many of online book challenges you can sign up for. However, a few years ago (2009). I came across the Graphic Novel Challenge and took it and completed it. 2011 is the third year I've taken the challenge. Here are a list of books I read for the challenge.

1.  The Dark Tower-The Gunslinger: The Journey Begins   by   Robin Furth, et al.
2.  Asterios Polyp   by   David Mazzucchelli
3.  The Walking Dead, Vol. 1: Days Gone Bye   by   Robert Kirkman, et al.
4.  The Walking Dead, Vol. 2: Miles Behind Us   by   Robert Kirkman, et al.
5.  Mister Wonderful   by   Daniel Clowes
6.  The Walking Dead, Vol. 3:  Safety Behind Bars   by   Robert Kirkman, et al.
7.  Superman: The Black Ring, Vol. 1   by   Paul Cornell & Peter Woods
8.  American Vampire, Vol. 2   by   Scott Snyder, et al.
9.  Heavy Water   by    Jonathan W.C.Mills
10. Cowboys and Aliens  by   Scott Mitchell Rosenburg
11. Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking   by   Philippe Coudray
12. Yellow Rose of Texas   by   Douglas Brode & Joe Orsak
13. Zig and Wikki in Something Ate My Homework   by   Nadja Splegelman
14. Cat Vs. Human   by   Yasmine Surovec
15. Mo and Jo: Fighting Together Forever   by   Dean Haspiel
16. Brightest Day, Vol. 2   by   Geoff Johns, et al.
17. The Walking Dead, Vol. 4: The Heart's Desire   by   Robert Kirkman

Media Consumed: August 2011

Books Read
Swamplandia!   by   Karen Russell
*School Days: Cartoons from The New Yorker   Ed. Robert Mankoff
*Heavy Water   by   Jonathan W.C. Mills
Tom Thumb   by   George Sullivan
*Cowboys and Aliens  by   Scott Mitchell Rosenburg
Tomatoland   by   Barry Eastabrook
+Ten Little Indians   by   Agatha Christie

* = denotes graphic novel, TPB, or collection of comic strips
+ = denotes play

Swamplandia! was a very interesting read. The tone begins rather cheery, then quickly becomes dark. Yet, the protagonist of the story remains hopeful throughout. The ending is incredibly dark, almost depressing. Some very bad things happen. What makes it all that much more frightening is that even though the world of the novel is a "different world" than our own, it really isn't.

Tom Thumb was an interesting biography about a very interesting historical figure.

Cowboys and Aliens is the graphic novel that the movie is based upon. The book is better than the movie.

I thought Tomatoland would be an examination of the history of the tomato. It has some of that, but its mostly a critique of the tomato farming industry.

Movies Watched
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Dylan Dog
Captain America
Cowboys and Aliens
Indian Summer

Rise of the Planet of the Apes was entertaining, but I also felt it was kind of short. The film could be seen as a prequel to the original series, but it's actually a complete reboot.

It didn't do well at the box office, but Dylan Dog was a really fun movie to watch.

I loved Capt so much I had to go see him again.

Cowboys and Aliens was ok, but it could have been so much more. There was so much potential in the idea, but it ended up being wasted.

Media Consumed: July 2011

Books Read
The Skinny on Creativity   by   Jim Randel
Primetime Propaganda   by   Ben Shapiro
+Ten Little Indians   by   Agatha Christie

+ = denotes a play

Three books in July. That was it. I definitely don't do much reading in the summer. Of course, in July I was in a musical, was preparing to be in another play (that got cancelled), and was preparing for the play I would start directing in August. I also took a trip to Wisconsin to visit one of my closest friends who was working at camp.

It has become more and more obvious that there is a strong liberal bias in Hollywood. However, though there have been a few scattered stories here and there and a few random studies and some anecdotes, there really hasn't been an in-depth study done on the subject with not only first-hand accounts, but with facts and figures.  Ben Shapiro has done that in Primetime Propaganda. I'm not sure how he got away meeting all the figures he met. However, what they reveal is what everyone outside of Hollywood and New York have known for years: there is a strong liberal bias in Hollywood and conservatism is frowned upon. I found the book fascinating.

I read Ten Little Indians because it's the play I began directing in August. I like the play better than the novel, though the novel is written a little better.

Movies Watched
Cars 2 (two times)
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
The Spine Tingler
Fright Night (1985)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Aliens Vs. Predators
Horrible Bosses
And Then There Were None
The Big Red One
Captain America
Mr. Popper's Penguins
Cedar Rapids

Critics from both sides of the political spectrum trashed Cars 2. They all said it lacked the heart of the original Cars. The funny thing is most of those critics were the same people who trashed Cars for being too sentimental and hokey. I don't think they changed their opinion; they just want people to think they did or not remember at all. I liked Cars 2. It's a spy movie. I wish there was more of an explanation why Doc was no longer around.

I was still on my William Castle kick as one of the movies was one he directed (Zotz!) and another was a documentary about Castle (The Spine Tingler).

I found the original Fright Night entertaining. When I was younger the cover of the VHS tape always scared me so much, I kept away from it.

Many people were all gaga over the last Harry Potter movie. Personally, I think it was one the least satisfying movie out of the entire series. I'm not sure what it was. The darker tone was a huge plus, but in terms of story and cinematography, the film is lacking. Perhaps since everyone knew this was the last one that had something to do with it. Of course, I was a little disappointed by the way things ended in the book, anyway. I think Harry should have ultimately died. Instead, he lived, got the girl, and had an even better life than he had before.

Even if you don't like comic book/superhero movies, you should watch Captain America. It's one of the best movies of the year, too. The film looks gorgeous, the storytelling is superb, and it's emotionally charged (spoiler: the hero doesn't ultimately end up with the girl here). It's a movie that not only makes you feel good to be an American, but just makes you feel good.

Media Consumed: June 2011

Books Read
*American Vampire, Vol. 2   by   Various
*EC Archives: Tales from the Crypt, Vol. 1   by   William Gaines & Al Feldstein
Robopocalypse   by   Daniel Wilson
+ The Boardinghouse   by   Vern Harden

* = denotes graphic novel or comic book collection

+ = denotes a play.

During the spring and summer, I just don't read as much as I do in the fall and winter. Two of the books I read were comic book collections and one was a play.

DC sent me American Vampire, Vol. 2 to read. I didn't think I was going to like it, but I did. It's not your traditional vampire story, but isn't like the ribbons and lace version of vampires from the Twilight universe.

I read EC Archives: Tales from the Crypt, Vol. 1 out of curiosity. The visuals in those old EC comics are just amazing. The stories are also good ones. They can be frightening, but nothing that happens in the story just happens for the sake of shock or gore.

Robopocalypse was a book I picked up because it's going to be the next movie that Stephen Spielberg directs. The story is basically a more streamlined version of Terminator told in the form of an oral history.

The Boardinghouse was a play I was in that never happened. The Board of Directors for the organization cancelled it two weeks before we were to open.

Movies Watched
Into the Wild
The Tingler
13 Frightened Girls
X-Men First Class
13 Ghosts
Thirteen Ghosts
Super 8
The Old Dark House (William Castle version)
Green Lantern: Emerald Knights
Green Lantern
Mr. Sardonicus

I was on a William Castle binge this summer. Castle was the poor man's version of Hitchcock. Castle made his name and fortune in the business by being a showman first and foremost. Even though all of his movies were extremely profitable and Castle was a master of many great filmmaking techniques, his showmanship kept him from getting the respect he needed and wanted from his peers and the critics. Some of his films are cheesy, but all of them are entertaining. There's an innocence in his "horror" movies that's missing in almost all major horror movies made from the mid-1970s onward.  The Tingler, 13 Frightened Girls, 13 Ghosts, Homicidal, Strait-Jacket, and Mr. Sardonicus.

Into the Wild was an interesting movie based upon a true story. However, the movie seemed to make the story's protagonist Christopher McCandless more of a hero than he actually was. For such a free-spirited person who had a seemingly high intellect, how he died (of starvation in the wilderness when there was plenty of opportunities for him to leave) is almost absurd. The movie makes it appear that McCandless had no way of leaving his self-imposed solitude whereas in real life that wasn't the case.

X-Men: First Class was a surprisingly entertaining movie despite the fact that it had very little to do with the comics on which it was based.

Super 8 is one of the best movies of 2011. It's kind of a combination of E.T. and The Goonies. It's the best Spielbergian, non-Spielberg movie I've seen.

Green Lantern was kind of a let down. The movie is an average superhero movie, but it had the potential to be so much more. It's an example of what happens when studio execs decide to make a superhero movie and not let the director and writer do their job.

I watched Tron because it's been years since I last watched it. It's a good movie, but there are elements that don't hold up well.

Media Consumed: May 2011

Books Read
The Millennials   by   Thom & Jess Rainer
Arguing With Idiots   by    Glenn Beck
And Then There Were None   by   Agatha Christie
Unthinking   by   Harry Beckwith
The Reading Promise   by   Alice Ozma

May was somewhat as a slow month as I only finished reading five books. However, if you notice there were no collections of comic strips, graphic novels, TPB, or plays. Just five regular books.  The Millennials was an interesting book about what the largest generation of Americans ever (three times the size of the baby boomers) thinks about life. I find myself in the divide between Generation X and the Millennials. The year I was born is considered part of Generation X, but I share more values and have more similar cultural experiences with the Millennials. But, that's always been the case with me, I never quite fit in exactly wherever I'm at. Anyway, the book is a must read for anyone who works with people between the age of 10-30.

I like Glenn Beck. I think he's really crazy on some things, but the direction of crazy he goes in isn't towards destruction. The direction of crazy he points towards sometimes is one of preparation and defense. Anyway, I like reading what he writes because even when there's something I don't agree with, it's presented in an entertaining manner. I think Arguing With Idiots is the best of his books that I've read.

I read And Then There Were None because it's the novel that the play Christie wrote is based upon. I've got to say, I like the play better. Christie is a great writer, but her mysteries are often so complex and have a twist that's never even hinted at so even Sherlock Holmes wouldn't even know how to solve them. The novel is a great book, though. It's probably the best mystery I've ever read.

Unthinking is a business book, but it's more of a philosophy of life book. It's filled with short stories and anecdotes that are quite interesting.

The Reading Promise is a memoir that's both a tribute to the author's father and to books and reading. Alice Ozma's father read to her every night for about nine years. It began as a bet and continued right up until the night her dad dropped her off at college. It's a great book for anyone who loves reading or wants to encourage others to read. It's also a great story about the relationship between this daughter and her father. I teared up a few times while reading it because it recalled memories of my own dad.

Movies Watched
This Island Earth
Murder By Death
Thor (2 times)
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
The Tomb of Ligeia

May was a slow month of movie watching, too.  This Island Earth is a classic 1950s sci-fi movie that's actually much better than I thought it would be. It holds up rather well after nearly 60 years.

Murder By Death is a comedy that has parodies of famous detectives that are all brought together at a mysterious house for a weekend. It's a movie I watched in preparation of directing Ten Little Indians. The movie is an oft-overlooked gem that starts Peter Falk as well as Truman Capote in a smaller role.

I went to the cinema twice with friends and family to see Thor. A lot of critics raved about the film when it came out, but have now been lampooning it since it arrived on DVD. I don't understand that. The movie is a good movie with the same positives and flaws that it had in the theatres.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is the movie that should have been the third part of the original Pirates trilogy.

I watched The Tomb of Ligeia at the Hi Pointe movie theatre as part of the Vincentennial. The movie was one of longest Roger Corman movies ever made. It's also one that had one of his biggest budgets. Plus, it has Vincent Price and Price made any movie better than it was.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Media Consumed: April 2011

Books Read
*Li'l Abner: The Complete Dailies and Color Sundays, Vol. 1: 1934-1936  by  Al Capp
*Mister Wonderful   by   Daniel Clowes
*The Walking Dead, Vol. 3: Safety Behind Bars   by   Robert Kirkman, et al.
*EC Archives: Weird Science, Vol. 1   by   Various
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years   by   Donald Miller
There I Fixed It (No, You Didn't)  by   Cheezburger Network
*Big Nate Out Loud   by   Lincoln Peirce
*Pearls Blows Up  by   Stephan Pastis
* EC Archives: Weird Science, Vol. 2   by   Various
*Superman: The Black Ring, Vol. 2   by   Paul Cornell & Pete Woods
*Reality Hunger   by  David Shields

* = denotes a graphic novel, TPB, or collection of comic strips

Most of my reading in April consisted of graphic novels and comic strips. The only regular book I can recommend is A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. The book is a memoir from Miller about the time he spent trying to adapt his life into a fictional screenplay. Life as story is an interesting concept and in the talented hands of Miller it becomes fascinating.

I really enjoyed a lot of the graphic novels I read. After reading Li'l Abner: The Complete Dailies and Color Sundays, Vol. 1: 1934-1936, I can see why the strip went on to become one of the most popular comic strips in the country.

The Walking Dead gets better with each installment.  I read the EC Archives out of historical interest and found them fascinating. You don't seen comics treated with the respect that EC gave to theirs.

Movies Watched
Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)
Jonah Hex
127 Hours
Assault on Precint 13 (2005)
Turtles Forever
Scream 4
Soul Surfer
Ahhh! Zombies!
The Stand

April can often be a nomansland for movie lovers. I didn't watch many movies at the cinema, but I did watch several view DVD.

Both versions of Assault on Precinct 13 were good, but the 1976 version is the better of the two. I found Jonah Hex entertaining.  Turtles Forever is a movie that brings together three versions of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in a way that makes complete sense according to the laws of their universe.

I enjoyed Scream 4. I'm not a big fan of horror, but I enjoy that franchise. It's so much better than most of the horror garbage people digest nowadays.

Soul Surfer was a well-done movie which is surprising in a "Christian" movie; it's a Christian movie that doesn't look or feel like a typical Christian movie.

Ahhh! Zombies! is a hilarious film about a group of kids who become zombies, but don't realize they are zombies. It's an interesting twist to see how the world looks and feels to a person who becomes a zombie.

Identity was a movie I watched several years ago, but rewatched in preparation to direct Ten Little Indians. It's a movie with a twist that many won't see coming.

Lastly, I watched the mini-series of The Stand when it first aired on tv over 15 years ago. It was a well done series then and I can still say that it still holds up well.

Though there were a few films I didn't enjoy as much as others, there's really not one I would say you should completely avoid.  Sourcecode comes closest, because of the plot, but since everything in the film is so far-fetched anyway, the ending actually does make sense. There's also some really interesting camera work that happens in the movie.

On New Year's Resolutions

Each New Year in the U.S. brings about a flurry of resolutions. People resolve to eat better, to read the Bible more, to give up smoking, to lose weight, to not get angry as much, to pray more, to learn a new language, to be a better person, to watch less tv, etc. At the start of New Year’s Day, we will “resolve” to do just about anything. A new year is full of the savory aroma of hope and brings the opportunity for a fresh start.

However, the majority of New Year’s resolutions (around 88%) ultimately fail. Though we have good intentions, we make resolutions as though they are fanciful dreams and whimsical wishes. Resolutions aren’t like that. They are not wispy wonders that can be imagined but never realized. They are, instead, like large pieces of granite driven into the Earth for all to see. They are not something to be taken lightly. When we resolve to do something, it is a serious matter.

In the NIV Bible, the word “resolve” can only be found four times (2 Chronicles 20:3, Daniel 1:8, Malachi 2:2, 1 Cor. 2:2). When you examine those verses, you’ll find that the only time someone resolves to do something is in matters of great importance. For instance, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of God when Judah was completely surrounded by her enemies and while staying with the Corinthians, Paul resolved to only know Jesus Christ.

Therefore, as another year begins, let us bask in the glow of hope and promise that comes with it, but let’s refrain from making any hasty resolutions. Let’s keep our resolutions for the times when we really need them.
The above is a short essay I wrote for the January 2012 monthly newsletter, The Christian Messenger, of the Christian Church of Litchfield.

Prediction: Ron Paul Wins Iowa

I don't write much about politics here. I know there's a lot of people who despise it. I don't like the games involved in politics, but I do enjoy following political campaigns and learning about candidates.
The race to choose a Republican nominee for the 2012 Presidential Election begins in earnest next week with the Iowa caucuses. Iowa usually doesn't mean anything, even though they are the first primary. With that said, I think Ron Paul is going to pull off a victory in the state. The man has the best advertising people of any of the other candidates working for him. Just watch this ad.

See what I mean? This is a no BS ad. It takes names and kicks butt. None of the ads for any of the other candidates come close to something of this quality. I think Paul will win the Iowa caucuses. At the least he will finish in second place and because Iowa is distributing its delegates proportionately, Paul will be guaranteed a voice and presence at the Republican Convention in the summer. So, sit back, buckle up, and get ready. It's going to be one heck of a ride.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What Teaching Can Really Be Like

--by Jonny Hawkins

Exploding Class Sizes

--Cartoon by Jonny Hawkins

A Short Commentary About End of Year Lists

Two days after Thanksgiving (Nov. 26th) I saw a blurb about the "10 Worst Films of 2011". November 2011 wasn't even over, let alone the entire year of 2011 and already someone had published an end of the year list. I understand why news outlets publish "Best of the Year" and "Worst of the Year" lists. They're fairly easy to put together, they make for popular filler, and they can also serve as a source of reflection for the communities they serve. I usually have a best of list for movies and books that I post on my blog each year. What I don't understand is why most news outlets insist on publishing these lists before the year has ended.

A year doesn't end until a new one has officially begun. I realize the chances of something major happening in those final few days of the year are small, but there is still the possibility that the biggest story of the year could happen on December 31st. If you publish the "Most Important News Stories of 2011" List so it makes the December 2011 edition of your magazine, you might end up leaving out the one event that really is the most important event of the year. I do understand that the reason why some commentators/reporters/writers/etc. publish these lists before the year is over because they won't be working when the old year ends and the new year begins. However, though I understand it, I don't really agree with it. End of the year lists should be published after a year is completely over otherwise they really aren't an end of the year list.

Post Office Closings

Here's some interesting facts about the possible upcoming post office closings in the next few months (brought to you by the folks at "Who Knew?")

A Little Something About Egg Nog

Just a little video from "Who Knew?" About Egg Nog. It's quite interesting.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tesla Is Greater Than Edison

I came across this image (sold as a bumper sticker) at The Oatmeal. You can read more in depth about why Tesla is greater than Edison in the book from The Oatmeal, 5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth.
For anyone who knows anything about the history of modern technology, they know something about the conflict between Tesla and Edison. In my mind, Tesla is by far the better and greater scientist. He actually invented most of his inventions instead of stealing them and engaging in corporate espionage like Edison did.

I intend to buy a couple of these bumper stickers after the holidays with my first paycheck in 2012. You should, too. Tesla isn't just greater than Edison, he's better.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Spanking Machine

Here's another video about some of those crazy DeMoulin Brothers inventions. This one is about a spanking machine.

The Jedi Mime Trick

Here's a great comic from Puns of Steel, a collection of "Argyle Sweater" comics by Scott Hilburn. This one can be found on page 109. If you like great one-panel comics, you should check it out. 

Education Comics

Here are a few cartoons about teaching and education from the TEACHER CARTOON-A-DAY: 2011 DAY-TO-DAY CALENDAR by Jonny Hawkins. My favorite of the three is the one that alludes to Byron.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Happy Birthday, Walt!

- "Lio" Mark Tatulli, Monday, December 5, 2011

Walt Disney was born 110 years ago today. Say what you will about the man and his beliefs, he was one of the most creative and influential people in the movie and entertainment business of all time. Happy Birthday, Walt! 

Thursday, December 01, 2011

House of Swine and Frog*

This comic illustrates much of what I feel about THE MUPPETS.

*--HijiNKS ENSUE   Nov. 29, 2011

Star Wars and the N.R.A.

- Pop Culture Shock Therapy, Wednesday, November 30, 2011